Long-term unemployment fell by 15,000 last month. Our main initiative to help get people who are long-term unemployed into work is the Work programme. In the period to September 2012, 200,000 people found work as a consequence of the Work programme.
Long-term unemployment in my constituency went up by 67% last year. Does that not tell us exactly what the Tories are like in this country today? Will the Minister stand up, put his hands up and admit that the policies of the millionaires in government are totally failing the ordinary people of this country?
I would have thought that the hon. Gentleman would want to celebrate the fact that an additional 21,000 people in the north-east are in work compared with a year ago. Yes, there are deep-seated challenges in the north-east, but I am confident that progress is being made in rebalancing the economy, and that is down to the strength of the private sector.
May I ask my hon. Friend what happens when someone who is long-term unemployed rings Worthing benefits centre given its failure to return calls within even the three-hour performance target and its failure to meet the target of processing 85% of employment and support allowance payments within the target of 16 days? What action is being taken to remedy the position, and when does he anticipate that the centre will be meeting all its performance targets?
My hon. Friend is right to highlight the issues at Worthing benefits centre. As a consequence of a very high level of applications for ESA, there is some pressure on performance at the centre. Work is being done to help tackle the backlog and to get back to the 85% level. Managers from the Department are happy to meet my hon. Friend to discuss the situation.